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A Wide Window of Opportunity for Politicisation in Times of the European Debt Crisis : A Case Study of the German Bundestag's Plenary

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Title: A Wide Window of Opportunity for Politicisation in Times of the European Debt Crisis : A Case Study of the German Bundestag's Plenary
Author(s): Werner, Caroline
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Discipline: Political Science, Politics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2014
Abstract:
This thesis explores the politicisation of EU affairs in the German parliament, the Bundestag, in spring 2010. The key objective of the case study is to examine the nature, extent and manner in which the increased potential for politicisation of EU affairs at the national level in the course of the Lisbon Treaty and the euro crisis has materialised in the Bundestag. The relevance of these questions lies in the normative implications for parliamentarism in Germany and the democratic legitimacy of the EU. The theoretical framework discusses the Europeanisation of the Bundestag, that is, the parliaments adaptation to the emerging and continuously evolving EU multi-level polity, from the viewpoint of politicisation; and a theoretical model is developed by drawing the conceptual links between Europeanisation, reparliamentarisation and politicisation. The Europeanisation process is seen as facilitating increasing political contestation of EU issues at the member state level. It will be argued that the European sovereign debt crisis provides a widened window of opportunity for politicisation, despite the executives inclination towards depoliticisation. This thesis draws on the single-case study design, placing special emphasis upon contextuality and ‘thick analysis’. The principal unit of analysis is the plenary assembly of the Bundestag, and embedded units of analysis include the government and legislative actors (five parliamentary groups, government MPs and opposition MPs). The case study covers three plenary debates between March and May 2010, amounting to five hours of discussion. Altogether, 30 speeches have been analysed, following a mixed-method approach of qualitative content analysis (claims analysis complemented by framing analysis) combined with quantitative representations of issue salience. The coding was conducted using Atlas.ti software as a tool. The study finds supporting evidence for all three indicators of politicisation: awareness of, mobilisation around and polarisation of EU affairs. The empirical analysis reveals that polarisation of opinions and demands has occurred on three dimensions, namely ‘policy’, ‘polity’ and ‘politics’, despite a clearly evident cross-partisan pro-European consensus in the Bundestag and despite the tendency of executive actors to employ depoliticising tactics during times of crisis. EU-relevant debates in the Bundestags plenary show political contestation on the left/right dimension and, to a lesser extent, on the pro-/anti-EU dimension. Furthermore, we observe international conflict framing (pitting member states against each other) and transnational conflict framing (based on party political, majority–opposition and executive–legislative cleavages).


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